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Domestic Violence Survivors Often Need Housing, Grant Will Offer Help In Orange County

The Henderson House, where Compass Center offices are located.
Courtesy of Compass Center

A Chapel Hill-based nonprofit that serves victims of domestic violence and their families is planning to expand its services next year to enable survivors to get back on their feet.

Survivors of domestic violence often suffer financial abuse. That means their abusers may make it hard for them to control their own finances – and that limits a victim’s means to leave the abusive relationship.

“One of the top reasons that people don't leave an abuser is because financially they're not able to,” said Cornelia Heaney, executive director of the Compass Center. “Housing is a key component of that.”

The Compass Center has received a two-year grant of $350,200 from the Governor's Crime Commission and matching funds of nearly $16,000 from Cardinal Innovations Healthcare to help victims afford housing and mental health counseling.

One of the top reasons that people don't leave an abuser is because financially they're not able to. Housing is a key component of that. -Cornelia Heaney

Beginning in January 2019, the Compass Center plans to start offering housing assistance to up to 30 survivors and their families. The Center also plans to offer financial assistance to up to 27 survivors or their children to access mental health counseling.

Orange County currently does not have any shelters for domestic violence victims. The nonprofit's executive director Cordelia Heaney says in the past, the center only had the means to place survivors in emergency housing like hotels, homeless shelters or domestic violence shelters in other counties.

“By having some subsidized housing funds, we'll be able to help some clients have housing and funds for utilities for up to 120 days,” Heaney said.

Heaney says that last year, the Compass Center served more than 1,200 survivors of domestic violence, and found that more than 115 of them identified that they needed assistance with housing.

“We know that there's more demand for these services than we will probably will be able to meet, but we're excited to be able to offer services and meet a currently unmet need.”

The Compass Center currently offers career and financial services to victims. Heaney says the expanded services will contribute to the Compass Center’s goal of helping survivors attain self-sufficiency and offer more tools to help them get out of a bad situation.  

"Our goal is really to provide advocacy, information and support to clients so they feel empowered to make the decisions that are the best for them and their families," Heaney said.   

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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